Thursday, 20 March 2008


"Whenever I find my will to live becoming too strong, I read Peter Watts."
—James Nicoll
It was the above quote that first drew me to Peter Watts and by extension, Blindsight. The novel was out in hardback at the time so I decided to wait for the paperback to become available before buying it but then my birthday rolled around in January and I received it as a present, I finally got around to reading it this week.


It's hard to summarise Blindsight, the Amazon synopsis tries and while it's strange and intriguing I don't think it quite captures it.
It's been two months since a myriad of alien objects clenched about the Earth, screaming as they burned. The heavens have been silent since - until a derelict space probe hears whispers from a distant comet. Something talks out there: but not to us. Who to send to meet the alien, when the alien doesn't want to meet? Send a linguist with multiple-personality disorder, and a biologist so spliced to machinery he can't feel his own flesh. Send a pacifist warrior, and a vampire recalled from the grave by the voodoo of paleogenetics. Send a man with half his mind gone since childhood. Send them to the edge of the solar system, praying you can trust such freaks and monsters with the fate of a world. You fear they may be more alien than the thing they've been sent to find - but you'd give anything for that to be true, if you knew what was waiting for them.
Blindsight is about first contact, but there are no green skinned beauties here for the dashing captain to have sex with. In fact there isn't any dashing captain, the captains a vampire and the crew are rightly terrified of him. The aliens are utterly alien, Watts outdoes Lem's Solaris in the otherness of his aliens. This alone is worth the price of admission and yet the book offers so much more.

Interweaved throughout the novel is the question of consciousness. Where does it begin and end? Is it real? Is it useful? None of the characters are 'normal' humans (or 'baseline' as they are referred to in the book) which results in a strange disconnect of trying to understand the humans as well as the aliens.

Another outstanding achievement in this novel is the vampire captain itself. Vampires have been done to death recently (hee hee) but Watts has created something here that Bram Stoker himself would have been proud of. A real vampire I would dare to say, right down to explaining the vampire aversion to crosses. A vampire that is a predator and not a whiney teenage or rich dude speaking slowly. A vampire you definitely would not invite to tea or in Buffy's case, date.

Blindsight was on the shortlist for last years Hugo's but was beaten by Venor Vinges 'Rainbows End' which I read last month but didn't particularly like and so, bambi'esk, didn't blogg about. I can only assume the Hugo judges had half their brain missing when they overlooked this book.

I liked Blindsight so much I wouldn't recommend it. If I did and you didn't like it I would take it as a personal insult. But if you don't give a shit about that, read this book.

review of Blindsight on
Peter Watts website
Download Blindsight for free